Unraveling the story of Lake Chapala’s artistic Butterlin brothers
While researching the history of the artists associated with the Lake Chapala region, I came across more and more references to the “two Butterlin brothers”. The problem was that different sources, including otherwise reputable art history sites, gave them quite different first names: Ernesto and Hans? Hans and Frederick? Linares and Otto?
There was very little evidence and it seemed impossible to tell which source was accurate, and why different accounts gave such different names, ages and details. They were usually described as “German”, but it was unclear whether they had been born in Germany or were the sons of German immigrants to Mexico.
Eventually, I compiled enough evidence to prove conclusively that there were not two Butterlin brothers, but three! Two had been born in Germany and were brought by their parents to Mexico. Safely ensconced in Guadalajara, the parents then had a third son, several years younger than his siblings.
The picture was complicated by the fact that two of the brothers used different names at different stages of their life, with the older brother rarely using his first name on his art once he arrived in Mexico, while the youngest brother adopted a surname for much of his artistic career that had no obvious connection to his family name.
Small wonder, then, that confusion reigned about the Butterlin brothers on many art history sites, some of which even failed to identify correctly the country of birth of each of the three brothers.
The three brothers (in order of birth) are:
- (Hanns) Otto Butterlin (1900-1956)
- Frederick Wilhelm Butterlin (ca Jan 1905-?)
- Ernesto Butterlin (1917-1964), also known as Ernesto Linares or “Lin”
There are still great gaps in my knowledge of this family, but the picture that finally began to emerge showed that the Butterlins deserved wider recognition as an artistic family of some consequence.
In future posts, I will show how all three Butterlin brothers contributed significantly to the development of the artist colony in the Lake Chapala area, albeit it in rather different ways.
Tony Burton’s books include “Lake Chapala: A Postcard History” (2022), “Foreign Footprints in Ajijic” (2022), “If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants” (2020), (available in translation as “Si Las Paredes Hablaran”), “Mexican Kaleidoscope” (2016), and “Lake Chapala Through the Ages” (2008).
I am in possession of one or Ernesto’s paintings and would love to learn more.
Thanks for your comment. A summary of what I know about Ernesto (“Lin”) is at http://sombrerobooks.com/?p=1184
I would certainly be very interested in seeing a photo of the painting if that is possible?
Click this link for my email.
I have a painting that is signed “Butterlin ’44”.
Any idea which brother that would be?
Absolutely none, though it may be possible to take a guess if you can send me a photo – via email if you like to firstname.lastname@example.org ~ thanks for getting in touch!